You’ve seen swans, sure, but what about giant inflatable “swan-things” with cartoon-like smiley faces? These whimsical creatures are currently on display at Stockholm’s Spritmuseum, but visitors will need to be patient to see the swans spring to life. They inflate and deflate in 12-minute cycles, though are usually upright for only about four of those minutes.
The exhibition was created by British visual artist David Shrigley, whose previous works include a giant thumb installed in London’s Trafalgar Square, a granite memorial designed to look like a grocery list in New York's Central Park, and the crude “Lady Doing a Poop” sculpture. He also created a short animated commercial for Pringle (the Scottish clothing brand, not the snack).
As for his latest installation, the deflation is perhaps the most off-putting part. When the air is removed, the swans’ necks slump to one side and hit the ground with a thunk. It’s perfectly timed so that the swans deflate one at a time down the line, making it look like an inflatable massacre.
Shrigley’s swan-things have gained an unlikely following. You can hear one of the creatures speak in this slightly disturbing animated video, and buy an actual swan-thing pool float from Urban Outfitters for $60. Take that, Instagram influencers and your inflatable unicorns.